Wednesday, June 26, 2013

San Francisco Camouflage Artists

Chameleons, German book illustration (1897)
We've recently located a 1919 news article that describes the return to San Francisco from the war in France of twenty-five American camoufleurs, all but two of whom were from San Francisco. They arrived on the evening of February 12, and the news story (including three photographs) appeared on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle the following day. The headline reads (in part): S.F. SOLDIER ARTISTS BACK FROM FRONT. Detachment of Camoufleurs From 20th Engineers Return to City. It mentions in particular Sergeant Frank W. Swain, who "was a well-known art student of San Francisco before he joined the camouflage section. He studied at the University of California School of Fine Arts, and later under [Frank] Duveneck, the great American artist of Cincinnati." Here is the article's list of the twenty-five men in the unit—

Lieutenants [Richard S.] Meryman and Jack [Gage] Stark [neither one from San Francisco]; Sergeant Nishan Tooroonjian, sculptor; Sergeant Jack L. Osthoff, artist; Sergeant Frank W. Swain, artist; Sergeant Louis De Wald, artist; Sergeant Marcus M. Meherin, Jr, artist; Sergeant Joseph Kopersky, designer; Sergeant Sam Macloud, painter; Stanley Long, painter; Sergeant Albert [Sheldon] Pennoyer, artist; Corporal Clifford Neil, artist; Sergeant William R. Moran, mechanic; Sergeant Frank Duncan, artist…

…All of the men wore on their left shoulder a yellow chameleon—nature's own camoufleur, and emblematic of the soldiers' work in colors to deceive and mislead.

Some of these names are familiar. The lieutenant in charge, Richard S[umner] Meryman, was a student of Abbott H. Thayer in Dublin NH, and had collaborated with Thayer and (his son) Gerald H. Thayer prior to 1909 in illustrating their influential book on Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (available online). 

In two earlier blog posts, we've also talked about A. Sheldon Pennoyer, who was one of the founders of the pre-war organization called the American Camouflage Western Division. There is mention of Pennoyer in an earlier column called "Artists and Their Work" by Anna Cora Winchell (San Francisco Chronicle, November 23, 1917), which reads as follows—

A greeting from artists and the camouflage corps comes from Camp Lewis, Washington, through A. Sheldon Pennoyer. It will be remembered that he was the dominating spirit, previous to being drafted, in organizing the camouflage in San Francisco.


 From R. Tripp Evans, Grant Wood: A Life. New York: Knopf, 2010—

During World War I, [Grant] Wood was stationed in Washington DC, where he worked for the American Expeditionary Force Camouflage Division…Given his penchant for self-effacement it is equally fitting, as [his sister] Nan records, that he kept a pet chameleon in his studio.

additional sources

Camouflage Artist | Edgar Walter

Edgar Walter, Beauty and the Beast (n.d.)
Above A sculpture titled Beauty and the Beast (n.d.) by San Francisco artist Edgar (Melville) Walter (1877-1938), who also played a prominent role in World War I ship camouflage, as noted in the brief news article below.


From "Sculptor Named Chief District Camoufleur" in San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 1918, p. 6—

Edgar Walter, sculptor, has returned from a trip to New York, where he was called by the US Shipping Board. He has been appointed chief camoufleur for the Seventh District, which embraces California and a portion of Southern Oregon, and will direct the work of camouflage in the emergency fleet of the Shipping Board.

Camouflage Music | Dinner Disappears

Above The cover of the sheet music for a song called Camouflage: A Soldier's Song, with words by F.P. Drowne and music by Harry C. Zerfing (1918).


From "Camoufleurs Makes Seven Course Dinner Disappear" in the Chicago Daily Tribune, March 17. 1918, p. 8—

The camoufleurs of Camp Grant, Chicago artists and cartoonists, who are proficient in the art of making things disappear, caused a seven course dinner to vanish last night in the club rooms of the Advertising Association. Numerous camouflage stunts added "pep" to the function.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Camouflage Around the House

Above A cartoon by H.M. Bateman from Punch, February 27, 1918, p. 133.

• Our thanks to Richard Hawkins for providing additional info.


From "Dazzle Dinners" in the Aukland Star, Saturday, May 13, 1922, p. 19—

Nothing is stranger in appearance, more barbaric than the latest style in the French dinner table.

Wine glasses are of the weirdest forms, without stems, and each guest has a different colored glass before him.

Plates are any shape except circular. Some are square, some irregular, and some simply no shape at all. They are not plain white, or colored, or even decorated with floral designs, but in their coloring resemble the 'dazzle paint camouflage' of war memory.

Knives and forks retain their usual shape, as nothing better has yet been invented for cutting up food and conveying it to the mouth, but their handles are of queer, tortured forms, and made of green glass or composition of many hues. Table cloths have, of course, gone long ago, and red lights in alteration, by means of clockwork devices, and so the whole atmosphere is one of uncanny strangeness.


From "Pumpkin Pie, Without, A Camouflage Trick" in the Boston Daily Globe, November 19, 1917, p. 3—

Washington, Nov 18—The art of camouflage has now reached the good old pumpkin pie. Mrs. G.M. King of East Orange NJ today sent to the National Emergency Food Garden Commission a recipe for making pumpkin pie without the pumpkin. Here it is:

Scald one quart of milk, add scant cup of indian meal, little salt. When cold, add two eggs. Cinnamon and ginger to taste. Sweeten with brown sugar. Put little cream or milk on top and bake.

additional sources

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Camouflage Artist | Grant Wood

Dust Jacket with Grant Wood painting (detail)
Above Dust jacket for R. Tripp Evans, Grant Wood: A Life (New York: Knopf, 2010), based on a detail from one of Grant Wood's lesser known (but especially compelling) works, titled Death on Ridge Road (1935). In fact, there is a scenic route called Ridge Road in the vicinity of Anamosa and Stone City, Iowa.


It's nothing new to mention that Iowa artist Grant Wood (1891-1942) enlisted in the US Army near the end of World War I, and that he served briefly as a camouflage artist. Nearly every account of his life makes note of that in passing, and states that he was responsible for the camouflage of artillery. Here, for example, is one account, from R. Tripp Evans' recent biography (cited above)—

[After his enlistment in the Army Corps of Engineers in 1917] Wood was stationed outside Des Moines at Fort Dodge, where he passed his free time sketching portraits of his fellow soldiers. After an appendicitis attack landed him in an army hospital, Wood was transferred to Washington DC, where he joined the American Expeditionary Force Camouflage Division. Charged with camouflaging heavy artillery and creating convincing cannon "dummies" [sometimes known as "Quaker guns"], Wood found that his background in theater design served him surprisingly well.

Meanwhile, we recently ran across a news clipping in scrapbooks put together by Wood's sister, Nan (available online here), in which Wood talks briefly about his wartime camouflage service. The article (the source isn't noted, but it's most likely from the Des Moines Register and Tribune, accompanied by the penciled note "Nov 1933?") is titled "3 Will Show Oil Paintings. Iowan's in Exhibit Here Next Week." It goes on to announce an upcoming joint exhibition (at Younkers in Des Moines) by three artists "who served in the same camouflage squad during the world war." Grant Wood is the Iowan, and the remaining two artists are John Kilgore from Chicago and Orrin White from Pasadena. "Stationed at Washington DC," the text continues, "the three young men were trained to camouflage cannons." And there is this paragraph in which Wood remembers their camouflage work—

"It was a difficult job," Mr. Wood recalls. "They took airplane photographs before and after our work was finished. Grass photographs like velvet, every footstep leaves its mark. We had to dig the hole for the cannon and fix it so that not a mark showed."

I have since been able to locate one of the artists who worked on camouflage with Wood. He was Orrin A[ugustine] White (1883-1969). Born in Hanover IL on December 5, 1883, he studied at Notre Dame and the Philadelphia School of Applied Arts. His parents owned a woolen mill in his hometown, and he was initially interested in textile design and the chemistry of dyes. He even taught chemistry briefly at Portland University, but eventually turned instead to interior design and landscape painting. Several online sources confirm that he was a second lieutenant in the 40th Engineers Camouflage Section.

As for John Kilgore, his case is slightly more challenging. The Iowa news article lists him as John Kilgore, as does Nan Wood's scrapbook note. But I can't find an artist-camoufleur named John Kilgore, although I've easily located one named Charles P. Killgore (or Kilgore) (1889-1979). Other than the apparent name error, everything else fits perfectly. Born in Huntington WV, he attended Marshall College and the Art Institute of Chicago. His professional life was centered in Chicago, where he worked for forty-three years as a color consultant for the Chicago Tribune. He too is said to have served as a WWI camoufleur, and to have been a good friend of Orrin White.

Mystery solved—sort of.

Additional sources

Dazzle Camouflage in Obsolete! Magazine

Cover of Obsolete! Magazine Number 8 (2013)
In recent months, we were interviewed about dazzle camouflage by Iowa writer and editor Rich Dana, founder and publisher of Obsolete! Magazine: The Journal of DIY Analog Anarchy. The interview is featured in the magazine's eighth issue, which came out a few days ago. Above is a scan of the cover. Back issues are available online, and a sample copy of the current print issue can be requested free of charge from the magazine's blog. Using Kickstarter, the magazine has also launched an online fundraising effort in support of future issues.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dazzle-Camouflaged Coffee Cups

Dazzle-painted coffee cups © Roy R. Behrens (2013)
G.A. Martin, "Camouflaged Ship at Close Range Looks Like House Afire" in El Paso Herald, Editorial and Magazine Page, December 13, 1918, p. 6—

Instead of being some dark color as one would imagine, they [WWI dazzle-painted ships] are painted in the most fantastic designs, and a crazy quilt is a model of accuracy compared to the streaks and stripes on a camouflaged ship. They start at the prow with a black streak, perhaps, that may resemble the figure 7 or something else as grotesque and follow this all the way back with alternate streaks and stripes of white, yellow, pale blue and other colors.

The complicated whole very much resembles a futurist or cubist painting and a close view reminds you of looking at a zebra after a session of several hours with a few quarts of champagne, if you can imagine how a zebra would look under such circumstances.

additional information

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Douglas Garofalo's Camouflage House

David Garofalo (model), Camouflage House (1991)
Thanks to David Versluis' blogpost, today we found out about an architectural project called Camouflage House (1991), designed by Douglas Garofalo and David Leary. Above is a promotional photo of Garofalo's model, which is included in a current exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, titled Sharing Space: Creative Intersections in Architecture and Design (through August 18, 2013).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

John Dewey | Camouflaging One's Self

Above World War I photograph of a British soldier, dressed in bark mimic sniper's outfit, posed beside a bark-covered observation post, disguised as a dead tree. From Ferdinand Foch, et al., The People's War Book. Cleveland OH: R.C. Barnum, 1920. Public domain.


From Randolph S. Bourne, in J.W. Cunliffe and G.R. Lomer, eds., Writing of Today. New York: Century Company, 1919, p. 175—

In all his [John Dewey's] philosophy there is no place for the psychology of prestige. His democracy seems almost to take that extreme form of refusing to bring ones self or ones ideas to the attention of others. On the college campus or in the lecture room he seems positively to efface himself. The uncertainty of his silver-gray hair and drooping moustache, of his voice, of his clothes, suggests that he has almost studied the technique of protective coloration.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Stephen Hobbs | Camouflage Pop-Up Book

 Pop-up book (2013) © Stephen Hobbs
In recent years, we've been following the work of a South African visual artist (based in Johannesburg) named Stephen Hobbs (find detailed information here). Our interest began when we found out about his use of dazzle-painting motifs on buildings, inside and out, a direction he is continuing at an even grander scale. 

In the meantime, he's been branching out, turning most recently to innovative uses of woodblock and linocut methods (some of which also use dazzle-related surfaces), the assemblage of parts of printed proofs into three-dimensional forms, including (see sample page spreads below) the construction of a limited edition pop-up book

©Stephen Hobbs (2013)
Hobbs' pop-up book and other related components in the larger project were produced and exhibited in collaboration with the David Krut Print Workshop (DKW). Concurrent with the exhibition, titled Be Careful in the Working Radius, David Krut Publishing also produced a full-color catalog (2013), with a rich selection of on-site photographs, artworks, and helpful commentaries by Jacqueline Nurse, Kate Arthur and the artist himself.         

©Stephen Hobbs (2013)

Stephen Hobbs, surface design for the Craftsman's Ship (2013)

In a related but separate commission, Hobbs is also working with Propertuity, Developers of the Maboneng Precinct, on the application of dazzle-painting to an actual urban building site. This ambitious in-process project is for a building to be known as the Craftsman's Ship, located at the corner of Main and Kruger Streets, City and Suburban, Johannesburg.


additional sources

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dazzle Camouflage Bathing Suits

Just when we thought we'd exhausted World War I photos and articles on dazzle-camouflage bathing suits, here are more. Above is a newspaper photo that appeared in the Free Lance (Wellington, New Zealand) Vol 19 No 996, on August 6, 1919, p. 18. The headline reads: DAZZLE BATHING SUITS THE LATEST VOGUE.

And then there's this from the front page of the Washington Herald, on Monday, June 2, 1919 (with no photo)—


Young Woman in Camouflage Outfit at Coney Island, Reverses Art as Practiced in War and Reveals—Oh, Boy!

New York, June 1—Camouflage, according to the general understanding, is intended to conceal; but the young lady who sprung a "camouflage" bathing suit at Coney Island this afternoon—providing that was her intention—failed to accomplish any such purpose.

It is doubtful if anything about the suit, or the young lady, escaped the attention of the several thousand persons on the beach. No two could be found who agreed on the details of the costume, but they all agreed beautifully regarding the details of the young lady. A woman's description of the effect would be highly technical, so here's one by a man:

Face—Slightly tinted.
The rest—bathing suit:

The costume was made of something or other, and its principle colors were violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red, with intermediate shades. It was a perfect fit.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Vivid Account of Dazzle Camouflage

Muirhead Bone, from Merchantmen-at-Arms (1919)
THIS IS a large post, but deservedly so. It is a lengthy portion of a book (available in full online) by David W. Bone, titled Merchantmen-at-Arms: The British Merchants' Service in the War (London: Chatto & Windus, 1919). The author was one of three brothers from an extraordinary family of Scottish writers and artists. David William Bone was born in 1873. His father was a prominent Glasgow journalist, as was his older brother, James Bone, who was the London editor of the Manchester Guardian for more than thirty years. A younger brother (oddly, also named David) was Sir (David) Muirhead Bone, who, during World War I, was the country's first official war artist, a position he returned to during World War II. David W. Bone, who wrote the astonishing passages here, commanded British merchant ships. His brother Muirhead provided the illustrations for the book, three of which are published here. The excerpted text below is from an especially wonderful chapter called "On Camouflage—And Ships' Names" (the concluding paragraphs on naming ships, omitted here, are especially hilarious). It provides an engaging narrative of the development of WWI British naval camouflage, one that differs considerably from the standard widely-touted views. Undoubtedly it has to be one of the most vivid descriptions of dazzle camouflage by someone who actually witnessed its use. Here it is—

[Partly in response to the sinking of the British ocean liner the RMS Lusitania by a German U-boat in May 1915, British merchant ship commanders] set about to make our vessels less conspicuous. Gray! We painted our hulls and funnels gray. In many colors of gray. The nuances of our coatings were accidental. Poor quality paint and variable untimely mixings contributed, but it was mainly by crew troubles (deficiency and incapacity) that we came by our first camouflage. As needs must, we painted sections at a time—a patch here, a plate or two there—laid on in the way that real sailors would call "inside-out"! We sported suits of many colors, an infinite variety of shades. Quite suddenly we realized that gray, in such an ample range—red-grays, blue-grays, brown-grays, green-grays—intermixed on our hulls, gave an excellent low-visibility color that blended into the misty northern landscape.

Bolshevik now in our methods, we worked on other schemes to trick the murderer's eye. Convention again beset our path. The great god Symmetry—whom we had worshipped to our undoing—was torn from his high place. The glamour of Balances, that we had thought so fine and ship shape, fell from our eyes, and we saw treachery in every regular disposition. Pairs—in masts, ventilators, rails and stanchions, boat-groupings, samson posts, even in the shrouds and rigging—were spies to the enemy, and we rearranged and screened and altered as best we could, in every way that would serve to give a false indication of  our course and speed. Freighters and colliers (that we had scorned because of ugly forward rake of mast and funnel) became the leaders of our fashion. We wedged our masts forward (where we could) and slung a gaff on the fore side of the foremast; we planked the funnel to look more or less upright; we painted a curling bow wash over the propeller and a black elaborate stern on the bows. We trimmed our ships by the head, and flattered ourselves that, Janus-like, we were heading all ways!

Muirhead Bone, from Merchantmen-at-Arms (1919)
Few, including the enemy, were greatly deceived. At that point where  alterations of apparent course were important—to put the putting Fritz off his stroke—the deck-houses and erections with their beam-wise fronts or ends would be plainly noted, and a true line of course be readily deduced. With all our new zeal, we stopped short of altering standing structures, but we could paint, and we made efforts to shield our weakness by varied applications. Our device was old enough, a return to the checker of ancient sea-forts and the line of painted gun-ports with which we used to decorate our clipper sailing ships. (That also was a  camouflage of its day—an effort to overawe Chinese and Malay pirates by the  painted resemblance to the gun-deck of a frigate.) We saw the eye-disturbing value of a bold crisscross, and those of us who had paint to spare made a "Hobson-jobson" of awning spars and transverse bulkheads.

These were our sea-efforts—rude trials effected with great difficulty in the  stress of the new sea-warfare. We could only see ourselves from a surface point of view, and, in our empirics, we had no official assistance. During our brief stay in port it was impossible to procure day-laboring gangs—even the "gulls" of the dockside were busy at sea. On a voyage, gun crews and extra look-outs left few hands of the watch available for experiments; in any case, our rationed paint covered little more than would keep the rust in check. We were relieved when new stars of marine coloration arose, competent shore concerns that, on Government instruction, arrayed us in a novel war paint. Our rough and amateurish tricks gave way to the ordered schemes of the dockyard; our ships  were armed for us in a protective coat of many colors.

Upon us like an avalanche came this real camouflage. Somewhere behind it all a genius of pantomimic transformation blazed his rainbow wand and fixed us. As we came in from sea, dazzle-painters swarmed on us, bespattered creatures with no bowels of compassion, who painted over our cherished glass and teak-wood and brass port-rims—the last lingering evidences of our gentility. Hourly we watched our trim ships take on the hues of a swingman's roundabouts. We learned of fancy colors known only in high art—alizarin and gray-pink, purple-lake and Hooker's green. The designs of our mantling held us in a maze of expectation. Bends and ecarteles, indents and rayons, gyrony and counter Flory, appeared on our topsides; curves and arrowheads were figured on boats and davits and deck fittings; apparently senseless dabs and patches were measured and imprinted on funnel curve and rounding of the ventilators; inboard and outboard we were streaked and crossed and curved.

With our arming of guns there was need for instruction in their service and maintenance; artificial smoke-screens required that we should be efficient in their use; our Otters called for some measure of seamanship in adjustment and control. So far all governmental appliances for our defense relied on our understanding and operation, but this new protective coloration, held aloof from our confidence, it was quite self-contained, there was no rule to be learnt; we were to be shipmates with a new contrivance, to the operation of which we had no control. For want of point in discussion, we criticized freely. We  surpassed ourselves in adjectival review; we stared in horror and amazement  as each newly bedizened vessel passed down the river. In comparison and simile  we racked memory for text to the gaudy creations. "Water running under a bridge."…”Forced draught on a woolly sheep's back."…”Mural decoration in a busy butcher's shop."…”Strike me a rosy bloody pink!" said one of the hands, "if this 'ere don't remind me o' jaundice an' malaria an' a touch o' th' sun, an' me in a perishin' dago 'orspittel!"

While naming the new riot of color grotesque—a monstrosity, an outrage, myopic madness—we were ready enough to grasp at anything that might help us in the fight at sea. We scanned our ships from all points and angles to unveil the hidden imposition. Fervently we hoped that there would be more in it than met our eye—that our preposterous livery was not only an effort to make Gargantuan faces at the Boche! Only the most splendid results could justify our bewilderment.

Out on the sea we came to a better estimate of the value of our novel war-paint. In certain lights and positions we seemed to be steering odd courses—it was very difficult to tell accurately the line of a vessel's progress. The low visibility that we seamen had sought was sacrificed to enhance a bold disruption of perspective. While our efforts at deception, based more or less on a one-color scheme of greys, may have rendered our ships less visible against certain favoring backgrounds of sea and sky, there were other weather conditions in which we would stand out sharply revealed. Abandoning the effort to cloak a stealthy sea passage, our newly constituted Department of Marine Camouflage decked us out in a bold pattern, skillfully arranged to disrupt our perspective, and give a false impression of our line of course. With a torpedo traveling to the limit of its run striking anything that may lie in its course, range is of little account. Deflection, on the other hand, is everything in the torpedo-man's problem—the correct estimation of a point of contact of two rapidly moving bodies. He relies for a solution on an accurate judgment of his target's course; it became the business of the dazzle-painters to complicate his working by a feint in color and design. The new camouflage has so distorted our sheer and disrupted the color in the mass as to make our vessels less easy to hit. If not invisible against average backgrounds, the dazzlers have done their work so well that we are at least partially lost in every elongation.

Muirhead Bone, from Merchantmen-at-Arms (1919)
The mystery withheld from us—the system of our decoration—has done much  to ease the rigors of our war-time sea-life. In argument and discussion on its origin and purpose we have found a topic, almost as unfailing in its interest as the record day's run of the old sailing ships. We are agreed that it is a brave martial coat we wear, but are divided in our theories of production. How is it done? By what shrewd system are we controlled that no two ships are quite alike in their splendor? We know that instructions come from a department of the Admiralty to the dockyard painters, in many cases by telegraph. Is there a system of abbreviations, a colorist’s shorthand, or are there maritime Heralds in Whitehall who blazon our arms for the guidance of the rude dockside painters? It can be worked out in fine and sonorous proportions:

Party per pale, a pale; first, gules, a fesse dancette, sable; second, vert, bendy, lozengy, purpure cottised with nodules of the first; third, sable, three billets bendwise in fesse, or: sur tout de tout, a barber's pole cockbilled on a sinking gasometer, all proper. For motto: "Doing them in the eye."

One wonders if our old conservatism, our clinging to the past, shall persist long after the time of strife has gone; if, in the years when war is a memory and the time comes to deck our ships in pre-war symmetry and grace of black hulls and white-painted deck-work and red funnels and all the gallant show of it, some old masters among us may object to the change.

“Well, have it as you like," they may say. "I was brought up in the good old-fashioned cubist system o' ship painting—fine patterns o' reds an' greens  an' Ricketts' blue, an' brandy-ball stripes an' that! None o' your damned new-fangled ideas of one-color sections for me!…Huh!…And black hulls, too!…Black! A funeral outfit!…No, sir! I may be wrong, but anyway, I'm too old now to chop and change about!"

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Camouflage Artist | Norman Wilkinson

Norman Wilkinson (1919)
Above At the end of World War I, British marine artist and poster designer Norman Wilkinson, who claimed to have invented dazzle ship camouflage in 1917, produced the illustrations for Henry Newbolt's Submarine and Anti-Submarine (New York: Longman's, Green and Company, 1919). This illustration of a camouflaged ship, titled "Does not look like any ship you have ever seen," was featured on page 47.


Anon, in The Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), Saturday, May 31, 1919, p. 16—

People who cannot imagine what practical advantage could be derived from camouflaging ships should read Sir Henry Newbolt's description, in Submarine and Anti-Submarine, of the extraordinarily confusing effect it has when seen through the periscope of a submerged submarine. "You look long and hard at this dazzle-ship. She doesn't give you any sensation of being dazzled; but she is, in some queer way, all wrong—her proportions are wrong, she is somehow not herself, not what she ought to be. If you fix your attention on one end of her, she seems to point one way—if you look way at her other end, she is doing something different. You can't see the height of her funnels clearly, or their relative positions. But, with care, you decide she is coming about southeast, and will therefore be your bird in two minutes' time…The bird ends up getting away to the northeast. Your error covered just ninety degrees, and the camouflage had beaten you completely…But this ship is nothing of a dazzle, the commander tells you—he can show you one whose cut-water seems always to be moving at a right angle to her stern!"

additional sources

Friday, June 7, 2013

Abbott Thayer's Bald Head

Above Recently we ran across this photograph from a 19th-century stereograph of an artist in his studio, entertaining his children (more likely, he has fallen asleep at the easel). The little boy is painting a face on his father's bald head. It may have been a common amusement, because it also occurs in the story below.


Nelson C. White, Abbott H. Thayer: Painter and Naturalist. Hartford CT: Connecticut Printers, 1951, p. 99—

Although Thayer's prevailing mood was intensely serious when absorbed with his painting, he liked to relax and share their amusements with his children. Indeed he sometimes excelled them in the invention of fanciful nonsense, as when his daughter Gladys painted the face of an Irishman on the back of Thayer's bald head, the scant dark fringe of his remaining hair serving for the beard. When he entered the room walking backwards and giving life to this grotesque apparition by flexing the muscles of his scalp it was startlingly effective. He also made small sculpted animals out of bread at the table by way of showing the cook good-naturedly that her bread was doughy. With [his student] Louis Fuertes and [Thayer's son] Gerald, he drew composite portraits of imaginary birds and animals by combining the assorted heads and tails of pelicans, alligators, and other unrelated species at random and giving them pseudo-scientific names.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dazzle Camouflage as Delirium Tremens

Above In an earlier post, we featured a World War I-era paragraph from the Washington Times, in which dazzle ship camouflage was compared to what the writer called "marine delirium tremens." Reproduced here is a similar sentiment, in cartoon form, that was published in the Observer (Auckland, New Zealand). Vol 38, No 20, on 19 January 1918.


additional sources

Art and Camouflage | John Everett

Above Watercolor painting by UK artist John Everett of the SS Sardinian (Allan Line) in 1918. The original is in the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum (CWM 19710261-0141).


From the Daily Kennebuc Journal (Augusta ME), 10 July 1918, p. 8—

A.H. Webber, a sign writer, who for the past two and a half years has made his home in this city, enlisted Tuesday at the local naval recruiting station in the aviation section of the US Naval Reserves as a camoufleur, and will take his final examination today at Portland. If he is successful in the examination he will leave soon for Mineola, Long Island, for a two-months course of training. Mr. Webber is the first young man from this section if not from the entire state to enroll in the naval reserves as a camouflage artist.